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April 2008
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June 2008

Sales Leads: Ignore them at your peril

In order to close business you actually need to interact with potential customers.   And leads are one way to do that.   I break leads down into 3 groups.   The first group are lists.   If it's a big list and you send them a postcard, good luck on getting a 2% response rate.    If you send them an email, that's spam.

The second group is a response list where in order to get some sort of information, they have to register.   You should get a higher response rate from this group, but I recommend a passive approach.  Just because they attended a trade show, downloaded a white paper or  gave you a business card does not give you the right to bombard them with email and phone calls.   The best approach here is to followup with a short email thanking them and give them the opportunity to opt in.  Then stop.   

The last and my favorite group is the ones who contact you and want to buy your product.   And you better get back to them within a couple of hours or a day at most.

Our credit union has a car buying service.  Since a family member is in the market for a new car, we tried it out.   We sent requests to 3 dealers each for Toyota, Mazda and Hyundai.   Out of the nine, only two ever replied.    The other seven just didn't care to sell us a car.    Now I don't know about you, but last I heard auto sales were down and everyone is hurting.  So when a well qualified customer wants to buy a car from you I don't think ignoring them is such a good idea.

Aa Perhaps those 7 car dealers have salespeople of the more traditional type.


A Salesperson's Other Job

Depending on who you to speak to in an organization, sales people are either revered or reviled.  Their objective is to close deals.  If they land that big one, they are placed on pedestals, treated like gods and receive handsome commission checks.  Despite the fact that this adulation negates the contributions of others in the organization that assisted in closing a deal, it certainly reinforces the perception for all, that sales’ sole goal is close business.  This is their corporate purpose, isn’t it?

Sales can play another significant role that will enhance a firm’s chances of winning in the marketplace.   As a marketing intelligence function, sales has the ability to provide valuable market data—from where the rubber meets the road—about why deals are won, why deals are lost, what features and services prospects are searching for, what objections are presented to sales, and an assortment of other critical information.  This information can be translated into enhancements to existing products and services, development of new products and services, tweaking of messaging in sales collateral and presentations, for example.  The result could be a more refined and streamlined sales process which better addresses customer needs and shortens sales cycles.

So, why don’t companies take advantage of sales to do this?  There are probably three main reasons:  not all companies understand the value that sales can add to their marketing intelligence efforts; firms have not found an appropriate way to incent, demand or cajole sales into providing this information in a structured format, and; some companies do not have a simple and systematic way to capture much of this anecdotal data for further analysis.

In today’s intensely competitive landscape, organizations need to find a way to harness these underutilized resources.  To facilitate this, a bridge, first, needs to be built across the chasm that currently exists between sales and marketing in most organizations.  Next, an easy, simple system to capture this valuable market data must be developed, because if this can be established, it will be easier to find the right incentives to have sales populate it with the rich market data they collect daily.  For the firms that undertake the opportunity to leverage sales for market intelligence, they will gain a competitive advantage that will be difficult to match.

Ryck Marciniak

(Guest Blogger)


Marketeer In Residence

Entrepreneurs in Resident (EIR) are popular with many Venture Capital firms.  These people have run companies before and they provide support for the VC's portfolio start up companies.    Lately I've been working with many seed stage startup companies and they all sorely lack good marketing talent.  Usually you get a brilliant engineer and someone who can sell and / or raise money.   Marketing is on the road map for later.

So what happens to these new startups?   They spend about $1M going to market, find out they didn't quite get it right, and then spend another $1M getting it right.

Wouldn't it be more prudent to get it right the first time?   And that requires marketing.  Experienced marketing.   So I'm proposing every VC should have an MIR.  The result?  Less investment, more success.  Faster time to market.


PSA: Public Service Announcement

It's election year in the US and the spin is getting louder.   Being good marketeers we like to put our best foot forward and that foot should be based in fact.   In politics........well sometimes facts seem to be optional.    I suggest everyone subscribe to the RSS feed of factcheck.org.    Aa They try to take a very scientific look at what the candidates are saying.

For instance today they posted "The Budget According to McCain: Part I".   

McCain's attempt to conflate earmark reform with budget cuts is a bit of logical sleight-of-hand (a formal logical fallacy that philosophers call an undistributed middle). McCain's argument is that:

  1. The McCain economic plan will cut $100 billion of the discretionary budget.
  2. Past and present earmarks account for $100 billion of the discretionary budget.
  3. Therefore, the McCain economic plan will cut past and present earmarks.

The argument is seductive. But consider another argument that has exactly the same logical structure:

  1. Clouds are white and fluffy.
  2. Sheep are white and fluffy.
  3. Therefore, clouds are sheep.

Sheep and clouds have some properties in common, but that doesn't mean that they are the same thing. Similarly, earmark cuts and budget cuts may add up to the same totals, but that doesn't mean that the budget cuts will be the result of earmark cuts.

Now that's great analysis.  So do yourself a favor, get involved, stay informed and check the facts.


A Manager's Focus is to the Staff Not the Customers

A lot of fur is flying over on Tom Peter's Blog these days:

Only excited people can excite customers over the long haul—i.e., again & again.

Let's face it, not everyone is the direct face to the customer, but chances are people who work for you are.   So it is more important to have them excited about what you do and in turn they communicate that to the customers and you have happy customers.   So here's how it works:
1) You have a clear vision
2) Everyone on the team shares that clear vision
3) Everyone on the team is foaming at the mouth excited and proud of what you do
4) The customer is engaged

Does it work?  You bet it does.   Early in the 90's I had a clear vision of a new category of computing products.  We named them "appliances".   No one had ever heard of the term.   So I jumped up and down a lot.  Then my team jumped up and down a lot.  Built and delivered the product from scratch in 9 months, sold 10,000 units year 1 and won awards world wide.   

And how do you measure success?  I still stick by my 3 tier metrics.


Chase Bank System Crashed: Day 8

Thursday, May 1st the interest rates change.  So I thought I'ld go over and check my accounts and see what the new deal looked like.   While the summary came up just fine, turns out when you try to get the details, the weblogic server pukes error messages all over your browser.  (so much for Oracle / BEA's "rock solid foundation")Aa

So I had a decision to make.  Should I spend 30 minutes of my life with music on hold or use the handy customer support email system?   I opted for email.   Got an automatic acknowledgment back and later that day a tech told me the system had problems (really?) and they were working on it.  That was Thursday.

On Saturday it was still down, sent another email.

Today is Monday, you guessed it, still down, sent another email.

I guess the help desk takes the weekends off.   This is serious business, a bank is having systems problems for 5 days and they don't let their customers know what is going on.

So for your support ticketing system, make sure it automatically keeps customer appraised of the situation on a DAILY basis until the issue is closed.   Otherwise they may start losing confidence in you.

As for me, looks like it music on hold day.

UPDATE: 5/6 I stopped by the local Chase branch, crashed it on their computer.   They called their secret number and sure enough Chase did a system upgrade last Thursday and the IT people are working on it.  They just didn't bother to let any of the branches or the customer know.

UPDATE: 5/7:  Decided to check to see if it was fixed today.  Well, someone was doing something because my account access was disabled.  Got that resolved and the problem account had disappeared.  That's right, the account was just gone.   Got right through to a superior customer service rep (I want his direct number) who not only fixed it but gave me an update on the problem.   They're still working on it, no resolution date stated.

UPDATE: 5/8 If I was still at Baxter in IT and a customer system was down for 8 days I'ld be collecting unemployment.

UPDATE: 5/9  It's up!  It works!  No one bothered to tell me <sigh>.